Saturday, March 19, 2011

Good Ground

Jesus once told a story about a sower who had good seed and flung it out, as was the custom in those days. We call this the parable of the seed and the sower, but it could more properly be called the parable of soils. The seed was the same in each case; the place it landed made all the difference. On stony ground, the seed couldn’t take root. On thin ground, the birds came and snatched it. On shallow soil, the seed rooted but had no place to go and soon withered. Thank heavens for good soil, where the seeds brought forth abundantly.
            I was thinking about this parable, remembering a drive to a conference one spring some years ago. As I drove through West Virginia, I noticed beautiful flowering trees all along one stretch of the road. They didn’t look like anything I knew. When I stopped to stretch at a welcome center, I asked the clerk about them.
            “The story is that a delivery truck overturned there,” she told me. “The seeds spilled out everywhere, which is why that section of the highway has such great trees.”
            Beauty out of danger. Seed taking root in what seems like tragedy. It’s a great metaphor for life, for life with cancer. I don’t like having two cancers, even with them in remission. I’m not thankful for cancer, though I am grateful for the beauty that has unexpectedly blossomed in the turned-over delivery truck of my life.
Jesus’ story is one of many he told about the kingdom of heaven, using familiar scenes of the day. This is how the reign of God is: you sow on all kinds of ground, not worrying about success, about the quality of ground. God is profligate, wasteful with the seed. Beauty, a powerful lure, as novelist Haven Kimmel writes, is scattered everywhere. It takes root in the least likely spots, as I think when I see a moss-covered rock in the glen, or flowers coming out of the limestone cliffs. Scatter the seed and keep walking. Don’t be too quick to label the ground stony or the soil thin. God has brought forth and will bring forth strong and beautiful plants where none could be expected.

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